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Developing a Global Mindset


The importance of international students developing a global mindset has been widely accepted in recent decades. In the Summer of 2020 the long-term global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to emerge at a time when some major economies are adopting ‘sovereign’ mindsets and putting up barriers to protect their own economies. This may mean that assumptions about the continued growth of globalisation face challenges not previously seen. The current blog assumes that in the short to medium term international students will continue to need to develop a global mindset, and that its importance will remain. It aims to help you explore the issues around this topic, and take up the challenges you will face as the world moves to new ways of thinking and working.

What is global mindset?

Global mindset is usually seen as an orientation of openness towards other cultures, other people, and other ways of doing things. For international students and graduates working in global organisations it is about the ability to adapt, depending on the country, culture, and people with whom you are working. It’s often connected to intercultural awareness, which is about understanding your own and other cultures, and particularly the similarities and differences between them.

It’s important to realise that a global graduate isn’t simply someone who can speak a foreign language, or has travelled abroad. Whilst being multilingual can be a huge advantage, global mindset covers a much wider spectrum of skills and qualities. These include the ability to understand international perspectives, to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and to understand how international business interconnects and operates.

One definition of a global mindset, from the FT Lexicon, is ‘one that combines an openness to and awareness of diversity across cultures and markets with a propensity and ability to see common patterns across countries and markets’.

How employers view global mindset

Different employers often include different skills and attributes within the term global mindset, or when talking about global competencies. BG Group talk about “the ability to think globally”, whereas EY look for graduates with “the ability to work seamlessly across international boundaries”. Some companies ask for graduates who have spent some time abroad and schemes, like Heineken’s International Graduate programme, wants candidates “To have a genuine interest in other countries and cultures”.

It’s possible to break some of the common skills and qualities into three main areas, and if you are asked to explain your own global mindset in a job application or interview, you can use this simple framework:

Social Skills – working collaboratively across cultures, adapting your communication skills to suit different audiences, being able to negotiate and influence international clients, and respecting and understanding other people’s perspectives.

Psychological skills – demonstrating your drive and resilience, showing high levels of self-awareness and reflection, and having the ability to develop new behaviours and skills.

Professional skills and knowledge – having a good understanding of foreign economies and industries and the interconnectedness of the global economy, having good language skills, being able to learn in different cultures and environments and having the ability to form global networks.

A British Council report on intercultural skills conducted research and highlighted some of the following key skills:

Illustration of most valued intercultural skills×300.png

By reflecting on these skills and qualities you can start to see which areas you feel you already have strengths in, and which areas you may want to focus on developing during your studies in the UK.

There are a number of activities you can engage in during your time at university, to demonstrate your global mindset.  These can include:

  • Campus based opportunities, such as language learning, attending international guest lectures or cultural events, as part of student union activities.
  • Module choice options, such as those with an international dimension or international exchange.
  • Taking part in overseas opportunities through activities such as study placements, summer schools, internships and volunteering projects.

If you need help in exploring this topic or finding ways to develop your global mindset, talk to a careers adviser at your university. They will be able to help you review how you have already developed this set of competencies, and signpost you to opportunities and resources available.


Resource originally developed by Mundeep Panayi and updated by Iwan Griffiths – June 2020 

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